Photo by Jerry Jackson
Lovejoy’s Alexus Akins (12) tries to stop Brianna McQueen (11) of Mundy’s Mill from getting the basketball from teammate Shannon LaRoque in the consolation finals of the Region 4-AAAA Tournament. Mundy’s Mill won to secure the No. 3 seed from the region for the state playoffs next week.
Mundy’s Mill may have ended its region 4-AAAA tournament play the way it wanted — with a win against Lovejoy that secured the No. 3 seed from the region for next week’s state playoffs.
But the way the Lady Tigers ended the game was a different story.
Head coach Tu Willingham’s Lady Tigers built a lead as large as 25 points early into the third quarter before Lovejoy mounted a comeback, cutting the lead to as little as seven points, causing Mundy’s Mill to settle for a 55-43 victory on Friday at Tri-Cities High.
The win left Willingham wondering where the second-half version of his team came from.
“The way we finished this game is so very uncharacteristic of this team,” said Willingham, whose team improved to 21-6. “It’s the first time all season we haven’t finished a game, but it’s still always good to go into state with a win.”
It was clear that Mundy’s Mill wanted to set the tempo on high from the start. Most of the Tigers’ 18 first-quarter points came either by pushing the ball quickly up the floor after a Lovejoy made basket, or on fast breaks by forcing turnovers.
After taking an 18-7 first-quarter advantage, Willingham’s bunch turned up the defensive pressure and forced seven turnovers on the first nine Lovejoy possessions in the second quarter. Brianna McQueen scored 10 of her team-high 14 points in the first half, while Moneisha Dyer tallied all 11 of hers before the break. The tandem helped put Mundy’s Mill up 35-12 at halftime.
Dyer left the game with an injury early in the third quarter, never to return.
Willingham was forced to insert some reserves to fill the void, and that’s when Lovejoy tried to pick up a little steam — especially in the fourth quarter when Mundy’s Mill might have believed the game was well in hand.
Anease Allen paced the mini-comeback for Lovejoy by scoring six of her 14 points in the fourth during a 10-1 run that helped trim the lead to 45-38 before the Lady Tigers added a late basket and some free throws to provide the final score.
Though Willingham wanted to see a cleaner finish and better offensive production, he said he is banking on his team’s defensive strengths to help them extend their season.
“We just need to go back and work on our offensive execution a bit,” said Willingham. “We haven’t really executed very well the last two weeks. We may just need to take some time to get our energy back. We’re going to get back to work at keeping our intensity and doing what we do best — good, tough man-to-man defense. Hopefully, that will get us where we need to go.”
Lovejoy heads to the state playoff with a 14-9 record and the region’s No. 4 seed.